Three Kinds Of Unfinished Wooden Cutouts And Some Ideas On How To Use Them

24 May 2016
 Categories: , Blog


Wooden cutouts are available at most craft stores, but you can make your own if you have a jigsaw and a router. You may even special order some wooden cutouts from a professional carpenter if you have some unique design ideas you cannot find anywhere else. Here are three kinds of wooden cutouts and some ideas on how to use them.

Positive Relief Cutouts

Positive relief refers to the fact that your wooden cutouts are two-dimensional, full-bodied shapes. They may look like a cookie cutter cut them out of the wood board they were once part of. You can use them in/as:

  • Painted wooden ornaments for a country Christmas tree
  • Signs for doors and decoration for walls
  • Glued together and layered to make a wreath or other three-dimensional object
  • Strung together and attached to the eaves of your home for a "gingerbread house" effect (snowflakes, stars and triangles are popular for this)

Negative Relief Cutouts

Negative relief cutouts are the result of removing a positive shape from the board and doing it in such a way that the board left behind is intact. For example, you want to cut a teddy bear shape out of a quarter-inch thick piece of masonite. If you (or the carpenter) does not start from the edge of the board and cut inward but instead starts inside on the traced shape, then the negative relief cutout is what you get when the shape of the bear has been removed from the center of the board.

Negative relief cutouts can be used in/as:

  • Frameable wall decorations
  • Painting stencils
  • Large, outdoor games like "cornhole"
  • Unique wooden shutters for your home

Bas-Relief Cutouts

Bas-relief combines negative and positive relief cutouts to create an almost sculputural effect. In this case, a positive relief cutout may be adhered to a thicker piece of wood. Then the wood around the positive relief is carved away to give the shape an elevated appearance. You (or the carpenter) can alter and stagger the wooden background around the positive relief shape to create a very unique look.

Bas-relief cutouts can be used in/as:

  • Block printing to make cards or wooden ink stamps
  • Large wooden stamps for wall painting (when you do not trust your freehand artistry)
  • Dimensional wall sculptures that have an almost trompe-l'oeil (fool the eye) effect when they are actually installed in the wall

Try experimenting with some or all of the above projects to get a really good feel for what these three kinds of wooden cutouts can do.